Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
The blockbuster exhibition David Bowie Is that started in London at the Albert and Victoria Museum in 2013 is now opening in Paris after continuing its success story in Toronto, Sao Polo and Berlin. If you were one of the thousands of his fans who were not able to get a ticket for the London exhibition your frustration can come to an end in Paris where until May 31st tickets are still available for on-line pre-sale for almost everyday! It could be a good opportunity for a city break in the springtime to see or see again the exhibition and discover the Philharmonie de Paris, this brand new cultural centre dedicated to music.
Everything and the opposite of everything has been said or written about David Bowie since his first appearance on TV in 1964. This unclassifiable artist never stopped reinventing himself both musically and with his innovative looks in a permanent attempt to surprise his audience. Experimenting new music and styles can be seen as a leitmotif for his artistic life: from glamrock to funk, soul, disco or electronic music and from Major Tom to Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane or Halloween Jack.
With 300 objects from the David Bowie Archive, the exhibition tries to encompass all these different phases. Examples of several handwritten lyrics allow us to understand his process for writing using the cut-up technique. Many original costumes designed by Hedi Slimane, Freddie Burretti, Thierry Mugler, Alexander Mc Queen, numerous photographs, films, music videos, set designs, Bowie’s own instruments and album artwork introduce us to the wide world of this pioneering and influential artist. To get the most of this visual and sound experience don’t miss to use the free audio guide provided with your ticket; for each object an explanation, a song or an extract of an interview will give you a total perception of his work. The exhibition ends in the most spectacular way in a room where videos of some of his most iconic shows are shown on giant screens!
The exhibition takes place in the latest built art centre in Paris that opened last January. The award-wining French architect Jean Nouvel designed this innovating building for the Orchestre de Paris and the Ensemble Intercontemporain created by Pierre Boulez. If these two orchestras will play here on a regular basis the Philharmonie is much more than a mere concert hall: it’s meant to attract any kind of audience from children and novice musicians to expert music lovers. All kinds of music will be played here: symphonic, choral, baroque, romantic, contemporary, jazz, world music, electronic, pop, rock…Beside the three concert halls there are shops, restaurants and cafés, a music museum with 7,000 instruments, a library…
Its roof and facades are made of matt aluminium contrasting with shinny stainless steel plates and 340,000 stylised metallic birds cut in 4 different shades of grey plates seem to take off from the building like a gigantic flock! The 37 meters high roof is accessible to the public and on a sunny day you’ll get a great view over the gardens surrounding the buildings and Paris.
The main concert hall can sit 2,400 spectators and is a technical feat. In association with Sir Harold Marshall a famous acoustician from New Zealand, Jean Nouvel created an exceptional place where beauty meets technology. The comfortable seats surround the stage so that the distance between a spectator sitting at the last row and the conductor is only 32 meters long and if seated behind the orchestra the spectators will be able to look at the face of the conductor! Other seats are located on high wooden balconies overlooking the stalls and the stage immersing the audience in music. On the other hand the seats can be removed from the concert hall to give place to modern music concerts and their dancing audience.
The Phiharmonie was unveiled in mid-January in the absence of its architect Jean Nouvel who considered that the building was not finished yet and would need several more months to be fully completed. Although the concert hall and the exhibition rooms are ready to welcome the visitors I guess you will share his feelings: construction workers are still on the site and the restaurants are not open yet.
However David Bowie is waiting for you in Paris until May 31st even if not personally but these 300 objects from his own archive will get you closer to understand his complex and creative personality while discovering an interesting new Parisian cultural centre.
For more information: www.philharmoniedeparis.fr
Text © Annick Dournes
Photos © Frederic de Poligny